By Samson Dubina
Many players want to develop new serves. That is great. I recommend it.
However, if you are going to develop a world-class serve, I would actually recommend improving your current serve. You have maybe spend hundreds or thousands of hours developing it already, so why not continue developing it by learning how to control it better, learning how to keep it lower, learning how to generate more spin, learning how to give different spins and different degrees of spin, and learning how to play after that particular serve?
Ok, so where do you start???
That’s a good question!
I recently listened to a coach from another sport talking about the difference between normal athletes and elite athletes. He said (and I agree) that the two differences between normal athletes and elite athletes are… VISUALIZATION AND DELIBERATE PRACTICE. What are these 2 things and how do they apply to serving?
You need to be able to clearly paint the picture of what a world class version of your serve should look like. Within 20 min of time, you should be able to write down at least 50-100 aspects of this serve. Write several points about each of the following – distance from the table, opponent awareness, foot position, balance, finger position, toss, backswing, contact height, contact feeling, weight transfer, wrist tension, shoulder tension, acceleration, contact point on racket, contact point on table, trajectory, recovery for the next ball, etc. etc. As you yourself can clearly see it and have a goal of how to do it, then your body can begin the process of learning to do it.
This primarily involves working specifically and with as much detail as possible on specific goals. For example, my goal during the next 30 min is to learn to serve lower. I’m going to work on adjusting my backswing, bending my knees, dropping my racket ½ inch as I swing forward, making the first bounce exactly to this location, and repeating it again and again until I reach perfection. Deliberate practice is more than dedicating the hours, it is painting a CLEAR picture of what you are trying to perfect and working with clear short-term goals in order to reach a long-term goal.
Recently, some of my students have been learning about visualization and deliberate practice. One of my students raised an objection, “I don’t know about this, I’m not fully convinced! I can’t see how visualization replaces practice,” said my student. “Ah” I replied, “It doesn’t replace practice, it enhances practice.”
The title of this coaching article is… Improving Your Serves. Yes, visualization and deliberate practice can improve your serves, but it can also improve all the other aspects of your game as well – footwork, blocking, counterlooping, pushing, flipping, smashing, match tactics, and much more. As you learn to visualize your desired goal it will then be much easier to have deliberate practice and once you have deliberate practice, your sessions will become 20% or 30% or 40% more effective.
- Read more great coaching and playing articles by Samson